November 2011

How To Use the Ravelry Patterns Page

Ravelry mind-reading magic saves the day!


The Patterns area of Ravelry is probably the most extensive chunk of its database. It would be an exaggeration to say that "Ravelry has every pattern ever made." As of this writing, Ravelry has over a quarter of a million patterns listed. From a practical standpoint, the older a pattern, the less likely it is to be in the Ravelry database. A pattern from a book published more than 20 years ago probably won't be in there. But every pattern published online or in a book in the last 10 years is definitely archived.
Is your mind blown? Because it should be. This is mind-blowing stuff!

Small Business Saturday: Support Your LYS!

Get out there and buy some yarn: it's the right thing to do!


These have been difficult years for small local yarn stores. It was always a difficult way to make a living, having to compete against internet retailers and big box stores that offer insane sales on yarn that is terrible and overpriced to begin with. (The infamous Joann's "50% off" coupons just bring the price back to something reasonable, if you ask me.)
To make matters worse, knitting as a whole has been on something of a decline in the last five years. It seemed to peak in the early 2000s, but just look at the Google Trends map for the term "knitting." Sales have declined, as fewer new knitters pick up the needles, while existing knitters lose interest or have to choose other hobbies.

Using Swarovski Crystals for Birthstone Jewelry

Last week we talked about creating special gifts using birthstones and their colors.  Using real gemstones can be very cost prohibitive, especially for some of the precious stones such as diamonds or sapphires.  You can achieve the same beautiful look, in perfect symmetry, by incorporating Swarovski crystals into your designs.  In most cases, Swarovski colors are not named for the birthstones they so closely match, so here is a list of the Swarovski crystal color names that represent birthstones.

Wreath-Making 101

A True Story of Making Wreaths with Living Social


I’ve decided to take a Jane Austen approach to life. I am in need of more domestic skills to woo and impress any potential suitors that may come my way. In addition to learning how to cook, I've decided to up my craft skills, which are especially important around the holidays. My latest adventure in the domestic arts was at a local restaurant in Seattle; I attended a Living Social Adventure class in the art of wreath-making. 

Cheap Chinese Bamboo DPNs: Cool, or Scam?

Cheap in both senses, but a handy way to build your basic collection


I was recently tipped off to an interesting eBay phenomenon that a lot of other knitters are apparently aware of: super-cheap multi-packs of bamboo double-pointed knitting needles for sale on eBay direct from China. 
There are so many red flags with a lot of these listings that my initial reaction was "SCAM." But after doing some research I decided to buy a set, which arrived today. Given the old rule that "you get what you pay for," I'm pretty happy with what I got for about $15!

Traditional Birthstones

One for every month!

Birthstones are a popular theme for many crafted items.  One of my best-selling jewelry lines was made up entirely of bracelet and earring sets in the birthstone colors.  When shopping or creating for that person who is hard to buy for, something as simple as a birthstone gift can be the perfect birthday present that will be remembered for years to come.  How you use birthstone information is completely up to your creativity.  Just using the colors can make a customized gift from fabric items, jewelry or other crafts.

Non-Turkey, Non-Stereotypical Thanksgiving Crafts

Everyone has their own special traditions and ideas about Thanksgiving. But it seems like all of the Thanksgiving crafts revolve around two things: stereotypical (and often false) depictions of pilgrims and “Indians,” or turkeys. For many modern families, Thanksgiving doesn’t have anything to do with these two concepts; in fact, to many of us, these are offensive—particularly the headdresses and feathers and such. Families who don’t eat meat obviously have no connection with handprint turkeys, either.

Welcome to Wovember!


Crafters Kate Davies and Felicity Ford have started a campaign for the month of November: Wovember, a month-long celebration of wool, wool yarn, and wool garments. Cuddle up in your woolies and spare a thought for our wonderful sheep!
After years of flirting with other fibers, these days I knit almost exclusively with wool. It may be wool mixed with a bit of silk (as in Elsebeth Lavold's wonderful Silky Wool) or wool with a bit of nylon (as in sock yarn). But I find that the less wool in the yarn, the less happy I am with the results. 

Opt for Fair Trade Beads When You Can

"you should always choose fair trade beads when you have the choice."

In the world of beading, there are so many choices for buying supplies that it can be overwhelming.  It is easiest to find one large supplier and buy all your beads there, but sometimes those beads can come at a cost that is far more than the savings their lower prices might bring.  Child labor, sweatshop practices and inhumane working conditions are all very real aspects of commercial bead production.  For that reason, you should always choose fair trade beads when you have the choice.

Ravelry Yarn Pages: Why Bother?

Find yarn - and find out what to do with yarn!


The Yarn tab is another area of Ravelry that beginners seem to shrug at. But it can provide some of the most useful information to be found on Ravelry.
Let's start by asking a question that I have all too often: what should I make with this yarn that I already have? (It sounds silly, but I know you knitters feel me on this one.) I encountered this situation recently when I decided I'd had enough with the four balls of Reynolds Whiskey that I bought three years ago. Two balls in midnight blue and two in mango orange. The colors are perfect together, but they turned out not to be appropriate for the project I had originally envisioned for them.

Yarn-Bombed Music Video

Seventeen Evergreen knits their own world

Love yarn? How about yarn on absolutely everything? This slightly dark and subtly humor-tinged music video entertains the idea of what would happen if we could create a yarn-bombed world within a pile of thrift store clothes. Crochet terrorists abduct innocent bargain shoppers and stitch them up into brightly colored, mismatching full-body suits. The new inductees join the cult of yarn and steal more victims to add to their numbers. The world slowly grows into a giant patchwork universe where lamps, telephones, and entire rooms are all coated in a thick layer of knitted kitsch. It's like an ugly sweater party amped up to apply to the whole world. It also looks like the video was one heck of a lot of fun to film. Who doesn't want to wreak havoc inside of a thrift store while rocking a woolen gas mask and patchwork pants? No one. Absolutely no one. 

The Ravelry Stash Page

Why you should use it, and how


Out of all the Ravelry features, the Stash page is probably the one that meets with the most resistance from users. Which is totally understandable, believe me! I get it. But it is also incredibly useful.
About once a year I have a knitter message me on Ravelry, asking about a yarn in my stash. If you run out of a skein of yarn X in dye lot Y, you can search Ravelry to find who has it in their queue. If you're willing to help a knitter out (and lighten your stash), this feature is great!

A Tour of the Ravelry Queue

Organize your knitting wish list


In talking to a lot of knitters, I realize that I have spent a LOT more time futzing around with Ravelry's many features than a lot of other people. This is the first in a small series of guides to all the amazing stuff that you can use Ravelry for.
The queue is one of the easiest features to grasp. You see a pattern you think you might like… you queue it up. At the most basic level, it works just like a Netflix queue, except that obviously you don't have to knit everything in order!
Typically one of the first things someone does when they get a Ravelry account is that they queue up a ton of patterns, and then deflate. It's exhausting, being faced with all the things you want to knit! Worse is the situation you face a while down the road, when you discover that it tells you when you queued something. I just glanced at my queue and found something I queued in October, 2007! That's demoralizing.

Recycled Crafts: Scrabble Tile Pendants

Old Scrabble games are easy to find at yard sales and thrift stores.  Chances are, you have an old set sitting hidden in the back of your closet.  Scrabble tile pendants are a fun way to turn those old tiles into something useable, and they have a great market on places like Etsy.  At craft shows, our Scrabble tile pendants were always the most looked at items on the table.

What are Scrabble Tile Pendants?
Scrabble tile pendants are basic Scrabble tiles with a decoupaged (a gluing process) image on the front with a bail or other way to hang the pendant.  Scrapbooking paper is the easiest way to find unique images for your tiles, but you can also buy designs on Etsy, create your own, or print photographs from your computer to place on the tiles.

Avoiding The Ugly Christmas Sweater Trap

"The classic ugly Christmas sweater either has too much flair, or a bad combination of colors, or both."
The ugly Christmas sweater is kind of a cultural tradition, although I'm not sure how relevant it is today. I think it used to be a lot more common for grandmothers to knit ugly sweaters for their family members. These days I suspect a lot of grandmothers just give their kids ugly Bedazzled sweatshirts from Walmart instead.
And why not? Knit too many things for an ungrateful audience and you would start shopping for gifts at Walmart, too!